Friday, January 1, 2021

The Inevitable New Year's Post - 2021 Edition

 Happy New Year to you, my dear Friends! I wish you all the best year of your lives!

I just re-read my New Year's post from last year. It was so hopeful, so optimistic, so free from any inkling of what was to come. How strange it feels to stand on the cusp of 2021, looking back on what was for most a very challenging year, and looking ahead to the uncertainties that loom out there in the great unknown. 

I hesitate to admit this, but in many ways 2020 has been my favourite year yet. No joke. I was going to make a list of the good and the bad, but I could only think of one thing* for the "bad" category. It's kind of a big one, and I'll be dealing with the repercussions of it for years to come, but if that's the only negative thing that happened to me this past year, I'll take it. (*I gained back quite a bit of the weight I'd lost during the previous two years. This really sucks, but at least the process was very enjoyable [hello carbs!] AND I know I can do something about it.)

In the interest of sensitivity, I'm not going to gush any more about my great year. I want to acknowledge and respect the many who had a horrible year for a variety of terrible reasons. If your 2020 was filled with loss and despair and fear and pain, please know that I see you and I care. I'm so sorry you had to endure such hardship. It's not fair, and you didn't deserve it. 

2021 will not magically change anything for anyone. Our issues won't instantly disappear as the calendar page turns. Anyone who thinks so, who dares to admit to making New Year's resolutions these days, is promptly christened a naive, foolish idealist. 

I see where these sensible, self-aware realists are coming from, but I don't think anyone can deny the power of new beginnings, of fresh starts. We're wired to respond to this notion of a tabula rasa. Whether overt or implied, natural or contrived, we all crave a blank slate. 

I feel like 2020 was a recalibrating kind of year for me. My unique combination of circumstances worked together to reposition me closer to what I want my life to look like. I learned a lot about myself this year. Some things I thought I wanted and worked best for me turned out to be the very things that absolutely did not, that would prove to work against me as I sought to reach my goals. 

For example, I thought I wanted a life in which I worked one hundred percent from home. I had determined in the previous couple of years that a full-time job outside the home was not my ideal life. However, it turns out that being home 24/7 isn't very good for me, either. I don't use my time wisely, I have a really hard time getting motivated and staying focused, AND I eat. A lot. (Self-discipline - or more accurately, the lack thereof - has always been my thorn-in-the-flesh)

So, instead of working one full-time job outside the home, I'm now dividing my time and talents into three part-time N-deavours: Norwex, Nannying, and Novel-writing. (😊) It seems to be a really great fit so far. These ventures align with my values, gifts, priorities and passions, as well as providing the flexibility I've always wanted so I can serve in various capacities and be available to my family. PLUS it gets me out of the house for a few hours most days, helping lighten someone else's load.  I'm loving it! 

That is, I'm loving it sometimes. All too often, feelings of fear and doubt and guilt come creeping in, standing between me and the joy and peace and contentment I long to experience. 

Somewhere along the way, pretty early on in my life, the following equation embedded itself into the fabric of my being as the ultimate truth: sacrifice + suffering = service. In other words, the only way my life could be pleasing to God was if I was sacrificing and suffering. 

And much of my life has lined up with that equation. Mental and physical illness, financial struggles and relationship issues are just a few things that have been constants over the years. Now that they're gone, it just doesn't feel right. I'm second-guessing myself and my choices, wondering if I completely missed the mark. 

I definitely don't have the answer to this particular conundrum; maybe I never will. But a Facebook friend posted something the other day that helped move me closer to resolution in my heart: "God's invitation isn't ONLY into sacrifice. It's also an invitation into deep, profound joy. We are sons and daughters, not employees. His first thought about me isn't how to use me." ❤ #TruthBomb 

My word for 2021 is LOVE. It took a long time to decide this time around; there are so many areas where I desire change and growth. But what I want most of all is to get to the place where I can be vulnerable and trusting and open enough to receive all the love God wants to lavish on me, and then to allow that love to overflow into every aspect of my life, into every interaction and relationship, every task and responsibility, every decision and possibility.

What's your word for 2021?


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Status, Security, Success (or not)

 I recently had the privilege of connecting with a significant influence from my past. That's one thing I really love about social media - I'm able to stay in contact with so many people from so many different parts of my life. I certainly would not be doing so if it took much more effort than scrolling through a news feed - it's sad but true. While many would argue that virtual relationships are feigned and shallow, I would beg to differ. I've found my online community to be a life line in times of trouble, an encouragement in times of challenge and all-around inspiring and delightful. 

This particular friend from long ago made a comment in passing that stood out to me like a neon sign. She said something about knowing all those years ago that'd I'd be successful in anything I chose to do. It caused me to reflect on those days of long, long ago. 

Way back then, it did appear that I would do well, based on my academic performance, at least. I was really good at school; I had figured out at an early age what the system required, and that's what I did. Not because I felt pressured by parents or teachers, not because I was ambitious or overly intelligent, not because I wanted to compete with my fellow classmates... It was my addiction to approval that drove me to excel at school. My goal in life was to please people - I craved affirmation like some people crave chocolate. (I crave that, too, but that's a whole 'nother story) It was a happy accident that my learning style happened to coincide with most schools' teaching style - I learned best by hearing, reading and writing. 

(I have to stop here and make a confession: I didn't actually learn much in school. I always said I had a short-term photographic memory - I listened in class, wrote out notes, memorized them for the test, then promptly forgot whatever it was I had regurgitated onto the test paper. Which translated into top grades, lots of praise and next to zero real, lasting knowledge.)

This is significant and I need to ponder it more; but this isn't what I came here to write about tonight. It was the notion of success I wanted to explore. The more I considered the above comment, the more I realized that I am the complete opposite of successful in so many important ways. 

I don't have a career. I didn't pursue my education - I have no master's or doctorate degree. So many of my peers are doing so well these days; and I'm thrilled for them! But when I compare my professional life to theirs, I lose every time. I had a very different vision of what I thought my life should be like at this point (middle age - eek!). 

However... it took me awhile to see this, but I would have to say that I'm becoming more and more successful in what really counts. It's taken many years and many tears, but I'm finally at the point where I'm giving myself permission to build a life I love. I'm beginning to see that physical and mental health, a strong marriage, kind and caring kids, deep connections, fruitful ministry, a job that makes a difference in the world and ongoing personal growth and development are what define success for me.

I still wrestle with the idea that financial security and vocational advancements are the only legitimate brands of success; that notion has been seared on my brain since I can remember. I have felt so much shame over the years for the unforeseen twists and turns my path has taken, away from the status and security I longed for.  

I'm grateful to report that I'm finding healing from those feelings of failure, disappointment, inadequacy and guilt. I'm looking at my life with fresh eyes and daring to admit that I like what I see. 

I want to live an unrushed life; small, slow and significant. I want a life with plenty of margin - white spaces where the unexpected can be pursued. I want time to ponder and study and walk and take pictures and read and write and connect deeply with people. I want to live simply so that I can give generously of my time, talents and resources. I want to value people over projects, calm over chaos, peace over performance. 

It wasn't too long ago that I felt horribly guilty over this wish list. But I am learning the secret of being content. For me, it lies in killing the habit of comparison and finding beauty in simplicity. Above all, it means accepting myself just as I am, even delighting in who I was created to be - assets and faults, skills and shortcomings, abilities and limitations, strengths and weaknesses. The real Joy ❤

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Accountability is Awesome (and why I've always avoided it) Part Two

Part Two (You can read part one here)
Thank you so much to those who reached out and admitted to a similar aversion to accountability - it's such a comfort to know I'm not alone in this. One friend observed how the isolation of the pandemic hadn't bothered them much; less interaction meant less expectations and responsibilities. (ie. accountability!) I can totally relate! What a relief it's been to be "stuck" at home 😏

However, now that I'm armed with the knowledge that accountability is THE success factor, I feel a responsibility to my idea (and the people it will potentially help) to seek out those who will both cheer me on and not let me off the hook when things get challenging. 

The one question I've been continually dwelling on for the duration of the pandemic has been, "What do I want my life to look like?" The question seemed to pop up everywhere I looked. It was something I'd never dared to really examine before. My people-pleasing, codependent, approval-addicted self was usually most concerned with what other people wanted my life to look like. 

I've experienced a lot of healing in the past few years, for which I'm extremely grateful. As I continue this journey of self-discovery, I find I'm finally at a place where I can (mostly) fearlessly declare what constitutes a beautiful life for me.  

In a word, I want peace. And love. And time. And space. And options. And freedom. 

I want time for quiet, study, reflection, contemplation, walking, reading, writing, making music. I want to love, to serve, to make a difference. I want to leave this world a little better than I found it. I want to make a peaceful, joyful, life-giving home for my family and friends. I want to give generously and gladly of my time, my talents and my treasure.

After much careful prayer, thought, discerning and discussion, I'm ready to take a step in the direction of my dreams. 

I've been an educator with a company called Norwex for the last five years, on a very casual, on-and-off basis. In a nutshell: Norwex is a direct sales company whose mission is to improve quality of life by reducing harmful chemicals in our homes, creating safe and effective cleaning and self-care products. ( Here's a short "Why Norwex" video if you're curious 😊) 

I joined as a desperate mother of young kids with undiagnosed bipolar disorder who couldn't keep a job but badly needed to produce some income. In addition to a solid mission and great products, the Norwex opportunity attracted me because I could be home with my boys and work around my other responsibilities. I found I was really good at some parts of the business, but really awful at others. I would do quite well for a bit, doing parties and making some money, but I ran screaming from the idea of following up with my customers, lest I annoy them and have them think poorly of me. (That's the people-pleasing, codependent, approval addiction part...) Then business would die down and I'd give up. Until the next time I was in a tight spot. And the cycle would repeat. 

I knew my motives were not pure. Sure, I wanted to help people, but it was mostly about the flexibility and the money. That's why I couldn't succeed long-term - my priorities were off. I was selfish and inconsistent. (And sick and tired and stressed and worried and fearful...)

I'm seeing things so differently now. I want to use this business to make a difference in the world. A real difference. I want it to start with love. I want everything I do to be done in love. I want love to overflow - love for God, for people, for creation, for myself. 

I believe in this mission. To provide people with options to take better care of their health and the health of the planet, and to do so through authentic relationships rather than pushy, impersonal sales, lines up with my core values. I really do believe that every home needs Norwex. I want to be a part of making that happen to help improve people's quality of life.

But there's more. I want to get these life-changing, health-saving, eco-conscious products into the hands of people who can't afford them. I plan to donate packages with our top five products to low-income families for every $3000 in sales, and seek to open a door to ongoing  relationship and support.

I attended Norwex's National Conference last weekend (online, of course). And I'm so glad I did! I heard story after inspirational story of how the Norwex business opportunity had changed countless lives. I caught a vision of how coming alongside women in difficult circumstances, mentoring them, supporting them and helping them succeed could turn everything around and give them a fighting chance to live the life they dream of. It thrills my soul to think of helping to change someone's life!

I was looking so hard for the answer to the life of my dreams, when it was right in front of me this whole time. I'm so excited to begin, but there's this relentless, piercing little voice that keeps whispering to my heart, "What if you haven't changed enough? What if you haven't got what it takes? What if this isn't what you're supposed to do next? What if people challenge you? What if you let your customers down? Or your team? Or your family? What if you can't do it? What if you fail again?" 

Friends, that's where you come in. I need people in my corner to encourage and to hold me accountable as I seek to accomplish my goals. I will be reaching out to some individuals in the next few days to find accountability partners to join me on this journey, but if you feel so led, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. We are so much better together! 

Thanks for hearing me out. The mere act of writing down my idea, knowing that you would read it, has both terrified and energized me. I once heard someone say that if your goals don't scare you a little, they're not big enough. I think we're there. 

Top 8 Steps to Chase your Dreams and Live Your Dream Life